Uncovering the Truth at Jericho -- By: Bryant G. Wood

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 00:0 (Autumn 1987)
Article: Uncovering the Truth at Jericho
Author: Bryant G. Wood


Uncovering the Truth at Jericho

Bryant G. Wood1

The revetment wall of Jericho City IV uncovered by Kathleeen Kenyon.
(Photo courtesy of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem.)

Since Jericho has a copious spring (Ain es-Sultan, “Elisha’s Spring”) and a favorable climate, the growing of crops is relatively easy. Because of this, the site has been occupied since earliest times. In fact, it is often called “the world’s oldest city.” And at 250 meters below sea level, it is the lowest town on the surface of the earth.

A great deal has been learned about its history through archaeological excavations. But for the time of the Conquest by the Israelites, Jericho is one of the major problems in biblical archaeology. Accepted dates indicate that the city was unoccupied at the time of the Israelite Conquest, whether one adopts the early (ca. 1400 BC) or the late date (ca. 1230 BC).

Many scholars, therefore, have rejected the validity of the biblical account of the destruction of Jericho and even the account of the Conquest.

A reevaluation of the pottery from Jericho, however, indicates that the final destruction date should be revised.

Garstang Found Joshua’s Destruction

The first excavator to use modern techniques to probe the secrets of Tell es-Sultan was John Garstang. He dug there between 1930 and 1936. Finding a double wall running around the top of the mound, he theorized it was from the time of Joshua (ca. 1400 BC).

On the southeast slope of the tell, he also excavated a residential area of the last Bronze Age (Canaanite) city. He called it “City IV”. It had been destroyed in a violent conflagration. Based on pottery found in the destruction debris and scarabs found in the town cemetery, Garstang dated this destruction to the late 15th-early 14th century BC. He was convinced the Israelites had caused the destruction.

Following the destruction of City IV, there was a long period of abandonment. This was interrupted only by the construction of a large building Garstang called the “Middle Building”. It was above the spring on the southeast side of the site. He dated the structure to the late 14th century BC and associated it with the palace of Eglon, king of Moab (Judges 3).

The next occupation of Jericho was in the Iron Age, during the time of the divided kingdom.

Kenyon Contradicts Him

Kathleen Kenyon reevaluated Garstang’s work...

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